The Paris Agreement, which obliged the "international community" to limit global warming to "well below two degrees Celsius", came into force surprisingly quickly. In fact, the necessary quorum of 55 countries that are responsible for producing at least 55 per cent of global emissions was achieved much faster than even the optimists believed possible. This is one side of the story.
The other side of the story shows that the majority of this same "international community" has continued to put its foot on the growth accelerator. Although the use of renewable energies is certainly expanding (more renewable power stations are currently being installed than fossil-fuelled power stations) the demand for energy, which is constantly driven by growth, is increasing, with no dramatic reduction in fossil fuel combustion in sight.
At the same time, whereas the German government continues to bathe in the glory on the international stage in its role as a pioneer of climate protection and to adorn itself with countless honours, the second amendment to the German Renewable Energies Act, which was implemented in spring 2016, stifled one of the most effective, democratic mechanisms of expanding the production of these forms of energy. Similarly, although Canada has passed a law aimed at significantly raising the price of greenhouse gas emissions, it is also forcing through the use of one of the most climate damaging fuels of all - tar sands - as well as the construction of the pipelines needed to transport the fossil riches it brings to consumers. In the same way, the global aviation industry has adopted a plan aimed at making the sector "emissions-neutral" by mid-century; although this plan might sound ambitious, it will result in more, not fewer flights. This point is hidden by the sector's use of offsetting mechanisms, which involves the sale of credits, often from dubious projects in the Global South, as a way of enabling buyers to free themselves from their climate debt.
These are just a few examples that illustrate the complexity of a process which is far from being on its home straight despite the Paris Agreement. These contradictory developments demonstrate the context in which we need to understand the UN Climate Change Conference COP22 in Marrakech and the results that we can expect from it.
Specific policy measures instead of rhetoric
The areas of international civil society that are focused on climate issues, in other words, the NGOs and environmental organisations that have been monitoring climate summits for years, sometimes decades, regularly refer to COP 22, the follow up to the Paris Climate Summit, as the "summit where action will be taken"; by contrast, they speak about Paris as the "summit where the decisions were made". Clearly, the Paris Agreement, which is extremely ill- formulated, needs to be expanded to include specific policy measures and commitments. This means that the signatories of the Paris Agreement need to prove that the promises they made in the French capital and in the months that have followed have been more than just mere rhetoric. They will also need to demonstrate that the Paris Agreement not only represents a success for diplomacy, but a success for humanity, just as the numerous enthusiastic voices claimed during the jubilation that accompanied the signing of the treaty.
What does this mean exactly? First, states need to set out precise regulations on the reduction of emissions. Although the majority of states have set themselves non-binding climate targets (INDCs), these targets are nowhere near enough to even begin reaching the two-degree limit, let alone the 1.5-degree target. In addition, the growing gap between targets and actual emissions levels is leading to increasing pressure for a move towards heavy reliance on risky and dubious technologies with the aim of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Never trust a COP?
What is the current situation of the climate justice movement one year after Paris, and what is the mood like in the movement in the run up to COP22?
Secondly, negotiations need to be conducted about who should shoulder the main burden of reducing emissions and the costs incurred by the inevitable adaptation measures that will have to put in place due to the impact of climate change. A total of USD 100 billion has been promised annually to the Global South from 2020 for this purpose. However, polluter states are not only attempting to achieve this level by using all manner of calculations alongside some real payments but they are also still far from reaching their target.
Third, in Paris, the poorest and most vulnerable countries were able to ensure that a further issue was anchored into the international climate regime, an issue that goes far beyond emissions reductions and adaptation: the question of who should pay for existing climate change-related loss and damage. This issue is being discussed under the heading of "loss and damage" and has a firm footing within Article 8 of the Paris Agreement. In practical terms, loss and damage involves an understanding that climate change is not a future phenomenon, but is actually destroying people's livelihoods today; put simply, droughts are making agriculture impossible, rising sea levels are irretrievably damaging groundwater supplies through salt incursions and - in the case of the Pacific island states - entire territories are sinking into the sea. This issue is particularly contentious because the damage that is occurring goes far beyond the USD 100 billion target and even includes the loss of values and the acceptance of responsibilities that could never be calculated in monetary terms. Consequently, loss and damage is a fundamental expression of the environmental debt that the Global North owes to the Global South and which the global elite owes to the majority of the world's population.
We have by no means abandoned our scepticism of the official negotiating process, but one of the reasons we will be attending the summit in Marrakesh is to follow this debate. Without acceptance of environmental debt, there can be no climate justice, and without climate justice, no climate protection. With this in mind, Marrakech - here we come!
UN Climate Summit
Our dossier on COP 22 in Marrakech
We will observe the negotiations and report from a critical perspective, we will accompany the climate justice movement and discuss key key topics with our partners.